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Singapore landmarks we’ve had to say goodbye to in 2016

Everything dies.

By Adam Kerr | Dec 29, 2016

  • Singapore landmarks we’ve had to say goodbye to in 2016
    Colorful HDB blocks at Rochor Center

If anything, 2016 was about moving on with the times and adapting to changes that may or may not be entirely pleasant. Apart from all the bizzaro news we’ve read about this year, one of the things that really takes the cake this year is the closure and tearing down of many iconic places in Singapore to make way for other developments. From estates like Dakota Crescent to places we fell in love with when we were young like Underwater World, here are the places that will fuel another year of national nostalgia.

Big Splash


Photo credit: Flickr user Leong Tuck Weng (@daffnii)

Way before Sentosa’s Adventure Cove Waterpark, Wave House and even the now-defunct Fantasy Island ever existed, there once stood a thriving water park that made waves both locally and on the international stage. The 40-year-old Big Splash at East Coast Park may have called it quits but its multi-colored water slides were once the source of joy of many Singaporeans. Opened in 1977, the water park had four pools, including a 50m-long wave pool, and a 230m-long flowpool. Interestingly, all of them were filled with seawater. It was reported that they had the world's highest water slides during that time, and housed biggies like KFC. But in the 90s, there were rumors of the waterpark's bad sanitation methods of the pools, which then resulted in losses from 1997 to 2000. Big Splash closed in October this year and the site was returned to the government for redevelopment. RIP.

Dakota Crescent

You’ve probably seen this estate appear in certain local films, documentaries and music videos, or heard about it a lot in the news. It's one of Singapore's oldest public housing estates, whose old school design and architecture invokes a kind of nostalgia and charm that many modern estates now lack. Since the 17 blocks of low-rise buildings were erected in 1958, their outlook hasn’t really changed. However, the news broke that tenants were required to find somewhere else to stay by the end of 2016 as the estate would be demolished for future redevelopments by HDB. Since then, Singaporeans have petitioned for the estate to be gazetted and held block parties to try and save the small neighborhood, but to no avail. Oh, Singapore.

Fish & Co. Glasshouse Outlet


Photo credit: Instagram user @jonszj

Only in Singapore do we find ourselves crying over a food chain outlet closing. We’ve made our peace with McDonalds at King Albert Park two years ago and this year, it’s Fish & Co.’s iconic Glasshouse outlet, situated just next to Park Mall. It was one of those places that was truly unique in Singapore. You were probably one of the many Singaporeans who have held birthday celebrations, graduation parties, wedding proposals (because of that huge "LOVE" sculpture outside), or had your first dates here over the past 14 years. It will now be just another distant memory resurfacing in an undergrad art project.

Funan DigitaLife Mall


Photo credit: Flickr user Choo Yut Shing

Going down the list, it’s as though Singapore doesn’t want anything older than 20 years to stand. Funan is every Singaporean's go-to place for all things IT and other electronic gadgets. It's been around for 31 years and positioned itself as a "DigitaLife Mall" over the years. Sure, there's still Sim Lim, but they're still recovering from the bad rep they've made for themselves over the years. Although it's been torn down for a three-year redevelopment, it's unlikely that it'll be the same IT mall that every Singaporean has become well-acquainted with.

Park Mall


Photo credit: Flickr user ton2fig

It’s the mall that sits quietly on the tail end of Orchard’s main shopping district, closer to Fort Canning and Plaza Singapura. You may not feel too nostalgic about this place because come on, which 12-year-old would be shopping for furniture? Unless of course, you spent quite a fair bit of time there with your parents when you were younger, looking for furniture to revamp the house, or if you were in between moving to a new place. After being around for more than 40 years, the mall was bought for $411.8 million by a joint venture group in December 2015, who will be demolishing the place and replacing it with two office blocks with a retail component.

Pearls Center/Yangtze Cinema


Photo credit: Instagram user @limzerui

Another building torn down to make way for Singapore's MRT system. Although it may not resonate with younger Singaporeans, Pearls Center was probably known for the time-warping Yangtze Cinema, which infamously screened R21 softcore films. However, this 39-year-old cinema wasn't always so dank. At its peak in the 80s, Yangtze became popular for screening popular Hong Kong films that starred biggies like Andy Lau. They only rebranded because of competition from modern cineplexes like Golden Village and Cathay sprouting up in the heartlands and city center. Pearls Center has to go so that underground tunnelling works for the Thomson Line can continue as planned.

Rochor Center

Pretty much everyone can name this place just by looking at a picture of the colorful blocks; that’s how iconic Rochor Center is. However, they weren't always so vibrantly colored. When they were built in 1977, they looked like every other HDB block, all decked out in white paint. But in the early 1990s, they received a fresh coat of paint and quickly became a sort of an icon for Rochor. In 2011, residents and shop owners of Rochor Center were told they would have to vacate their premises to make way for the new North-South Expressway (NSE), which will stretch from Admiralty Road to East Coast Parkway. However, all's well that ends well as the residents keep their strong community spirit alive at Kallang Trivista, where a huge majority have chosen to live. It may not look as whimsical as Rochor Center, but it still retains its soul.

Sungei Road Thieves’ Market

This one’s a little sadder than the others on the list, because it actually affects the lives of the peddlers, trying to earn a living in Singapore. The Thieves' Market has been around since the 1930s, and you can find pretty much anything from secondhand clothing to cassettes and old coins. The flea market earned its infamous name because back then, stolen goods were put on display on mats for sale. In the 70s, the government tried to remove these vendors and peddlers off the streets but to no avail, and then again in 1994 when they wanted to develop the area. In 2011, half of the area was shut down for the development of the Sungei Road MRT Station and now, it seems like the flea market will be nothing but a page in Singapore's history books. An association that represented the traders at the market did suggest they be relocated to alternative sites nearby, but the National Environment Agency rejected it as those areas have been marked for parks and residential use. Most of these peddlers and vendors are between 60 to 80 years old, and have voiced their concerns on their employability. NEA and other agencies have promised to match them with financial assistance schemes, but really, all they want is to be able to "fend for (them)selves and be independent".

Tanjong Pagar Railway Center


Photo credit: Malvina Tan

It has been closed for years, and became pretty much the white elephant in the room. But that didn’t stop photographers and Instagrammers from climbing in to sneak a shot or two. Slowly, events were organized and the government decided to open up the landmark on public holidays to let Singaporeans experience once again what it was like to take a train from Singapore to Malaysia (not literally, of course). Soon, the tracks were removed and the Green Corridor was born. If you didn’t get to check it out on Christmas Day, you’ve missed your chance to join the 30,000 plus people that turned up to bid adieu to this beautiful piece of architecture. It'll be closed until 2025 while the new Cantonment MRT station on the Circle Line gets constructed.

Underwater World Singapore


Photo credit: Flickr user Kiran Jonnalagadda

Your parents probably brought you here when you were really young, and depending on your interest in the sea creatures, that was probably the last time you were there. Yet, there’s a huge outpouring of nostalgia when it was announced that it was to close in June this year. As much as a tourist attraction as it is, standing on a travellator in a tunnel where pieces of acrylic panels separates you from the sea animals resonated with many. It's not a surprise though, especially with keen competition from other huge attractions like the Marina Life Park in Resorts World Sentosa, which includes the S.E.A. Aquarium and Dolphin Island. According to them, there have been over 30 million visitors since it started operations 25 years ago.

Zouk at Jiak Kim

Well okay, they’re not gone for good, but the Jiak Kim premises was a cultural icon for Singaporeans who were coming of age. It was the rite of passage for any 18-year-old, a sort of introduction to Singapore’s clubbing and nightlife scene. Ex-owner Lincoln Cheng and his partners did a legendary job with Zouk, turning the warehouses along Jiak Kim Street into one of the world's hottest night clubs. Although Zouk has moved to Clarke Quay, it’s a little hard to say goodbye to the old site, especially with all those happy (and probably drunken) memories pegged to the cozy joint. Alas, we have to move on and find alternatives for post-clubbing nosh (goodbye Zouk’s banger and mash).

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